Communication boards can be used to introduce the power of language and of Core Vocabulary. They can be used to model language and increase participation. Combined with activity specific words, they can be used to make activities, such as reading books, accessible and engaging.
But, how many words to start with? I would offer as many as possible, but it depends on the individual. One technique that has been used is to “mask” some words to start, and to “unmask” more vocabulary as an individual’s skills grow.
Why do we use masking? We want to take advantage of static icon placement. In other words, once an icon has a home on a board, or speech-generating device, its placement should not change. Predictability is important for establishing motor planning for communication. Imagine if the keys on your QWERTY keyboard moved around every few weeks? It would be really, really hard to type.
For those who need to start off with a simplified visual field, we have created a series of graded communication boards that you can print, glue on card stock, and laminate. Velcro dots can be added to the bottom to allow you to attach symbols for an activity, or a highly preferred object.
Just remember not to get “stuck” at only a few words. The goal is to keep moving forward as the individual gains skills. This set of boards has a maximum field size of 20. Some people can handle a lot more right off the bat. Keep growing that access to language. And this is not just for kids. Adults with limited verbal skills need access to language, too!